Saturday, April 30, 2011

Awesome 8in8 Song

"There was a tiny asian woman screaming in the street today
And she was screaming at a person that she obviously hates
She was so loud we heard the screaming with our windows all rolled up
And we all looked down the street to see who she was screaming at

But there was no one on the sidewalk so we all looked back at her
And we saw in her homeless hands she held a 1960s mirror
A pretty plastic girly one framed in a purple case
And she was screaming at herself and she was spitting in her face

And we were scared and we were shaken waiting at the intersection
Looking at each other’s faces, and each one a shocked reflection
And we laugh with nervous laughter at the crazies in the street
But it’s only cause we know its how we kind of want to be
And there’s a fraction of a brain cell chain that makes us what we are
One false move you’re in the mirror, someone’s laughing from the car

Casey said she’d seen that woman half a dozen times
And that she has a bunch of mirrors, she has lots of different kinds
And I wondered what she’d shouted and I wondered what she’d done
The light turned green, and someone said we ought to put her in a song

I feel sorry for that woman as she stormed off in the day
With a bitter frozen enemy who will never go away
And so many of us hate ourselves but never shout in rage
We never get to hold a mirror, we never turn the page"


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Words Are Flowing Out Like Endless Rain

On the plus side, as my misery index continues to rise, so too it seems does my creativity index. I can't remember the last time I felt this much urge to create. I actually wrote something today. At first I thought it was a poem, but the more I start to stare and it and play with it, I think it might be a song. I mean, it still needs some editing (and a chorus, if it actually is a song) but it felt so good to get some words on paper. It's been approximately forever. Anyway, without further ado, a still untitled poem/song/thing.

On the precipice of departure
She sailed through doors revolving
The end of one era is another yet evolving

Two silver circles, teeth menacing in uniformity
Metallic crunching breaks the silence sitting stilly
Still it doesn’t hit her, the crushing enormity

Ghosts perched on bookshelves and window ledges
Whispering memories, nudging and giggling
Filling the room and softening its edges

He had a patient wait at the top of the column
A fitting terminus to thirteen years intersecting

His soft lips make a heart, just so
One of her hands holds his guitar callused digits
The other steadies her against falling

A quick squeeze, almost reflex
Current coursing through fingers and time
Her eyes dart away, she deflects

Next door his lover sleeps quietly
Her energy long fallen from its acme
Still penetrates with vibrancy,
Insulation, walls, pure white paint

A breath of anticipation,
Held deep, one two three
Slowly seeps out between him and she

Foreheads so close, two armies advancing parallel
Even more like two charged poles
That repel each other’s sameness

Sinking deep into fibered comfort
Voices vent from soft speakers
Comedy, laughing, this decision a comedy of precision

A truth less harsh when it stays unspoken
Promises that promise to remain unbroken

Monday, April 25, 2011

Almost Forgot About Musical Monday!

Hey Intarwebs,

Today's song was selected primarily for two reasons. (1) I had totally forgotten about this song's existence for the last five years or so until I saw it yesterday on an episode of "That 70s Show". (2) Even though I had heard this song a bunch before, I didn't have it on my ipod or any CD. So I always assumed, primarily because of the multi-part minor harmonies, that this song was sung by the Beach Boys! So when I 'shazam'ed it yesterday while it was playing on TSS, I was astonished to find it was sung by a group I've never even heard of, "The Turtles." Did this band even have any other songs, or were they a one hit wonder? If I didn't need so urgently to be off to bed, I'd wikipedia them right now, but alas I've got to drop you today's song and leave:

Also, isn't this video so adorably unintentionally creepy? AFN!


Thou fond mad man, hear me but speak a word -

"What, rouse thee, man! thy Juliet is alive,
For whose dear sake thou wast but lately dead;
There art thou happy: Tybalt would kill thee,
But thou slew'st Tybalt; there are thou happy too:
The law that threaten'd death becomes thy friend
And turns it to exile; there art thou happy:
A pack of blessings lights up upon thy back"

Friday, April 22, 2011

Chag Sameach. I Am Praying...

That with enough people reminding me I will continue to remember. I am grateful to have friends and family who care. Miss ya, jerkface.

"Love sings a song as she sails through the sky.
The water looks bluer through her pretty eyes.
And everyone knows it whenever she flies,
and also when she comes down."
       - The Avett Brothers

Clinging to the Train, Thinking of Jumping

Collecting bits of motivation for making a leap of faith. Came across this one today. Thought I'd share for any other aspiring creatives out there.

Going Solo. from Studio Botes on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

note new link

Just wanted to pop by to say please take note of the new link I added to "friends" on the side, there. The link will take you to "Pasta and Pistols," the website of my fabulous, long-time friend Nicole. She is a purveyor of interesting links, funny images, great tunes and covetable fashion. Oh, and things vomiting rainbows. Give her a check out. Cheers. Here's an awesome song I heard for the first time on her blog the other day:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One Day, Many Updates and Thoughts

A self-portrait I liked today:



Whole Foods in the South: A Horse of a Different Color

Woman ringing up my groceries: That's a nice color combo you have on there.
Me: Thanks. Blue-green and red-orange are complementary on the color wheel, so I was hoping it would work.
Woman ringing up my groceries: It's really...what's that word I'm looking for...
Dude bagging up my groceries: Creative?
Woman ringing up my groceries: Puerto Rican!


Via AT. Not much you can say about this sad event. I have so much respect for photojournalists. I fantasize about having the courage to do this kind of work some day:

Tim Hetherington, 'Restrepo' Director, And Chris Hondros, Photojournalist, Killed In Libya


Dinner made tonight came out delicious. Something, as Aaron put it, "Totally off the map."


Salad with the following ingredients (organic, fresh, and local in this case, might have made a difference): mix of arugula and spring blend ripped up small, buncha chick peas, fresh cherry tomatoes halved, bulb of fennel sliced thin, red onion sliced thin, goat cheese mozzarella roughly hewn, and homemade dressing of flavorful extra virgin olive oil, fresh oregano and flat leaf parsley from my garden, fennel seed, red pepper flakes, orange zest, salt and pepper.

Fresh loaf of bread from Gugelhupf, sliced on the angle, rubbed with a sliced clove of garlic and touched lightly with butter, then broiled.


An open letter to my brown, Banana Republic scarf:

Dear Scarf,

I miss you. I'm not sure when you left, but I recently took notice of your absence. I'm sorry if this makes me a bad friend, but doesn't the fact that I miss you now count for something? Did you run off with my only pair of black pants that fits right now? If so, I wish you two a happy romance, as I do believe that black and brown can live in harmony. But it would be nice if you'd come back after you elope. Because I found you the perfect outfit to accent. I was all excited to show you last night and that's when I realized you'd gone. Twas a sad day. We've had some good times together, have we not? I mean, we've been friends since my junior year of college. And I've taken care of you, haven't I? I always bathed you by hand with gentle soap, hung you up to dry with the gentlest of padded clothespins, and gave you the coveted top rung of the scarf hanger. If you come back, I promise you won't have to share a rung with my Israeli kafiya anymore. I know how you get jealous when you think you have to vie for favorite, but you know you've always been my #1. Come back and let me tell you how much I appreciate you.



Photobucket Over a year ago, I got the Elliott Smith album "New Moon" and ripped it into my iTunes. My cousin Andy, who is a walking music catalog, told me that if I liked Nick Drake I would probably also like Smith. After an initial listen my conclusion was, "Yeah ok, that's pretty good." Promptly, I forgot about the album's existence, only maybe hearing a track sprinkled in on the rare occasions I use the 'shuffle' mode on my ipod. About three months ago, I remembered. I have been listening to this album pretty much nonstop since then. If you have any affection for lyrics that resemble poetry and yet somehow also maintain an observational posture on the day to day, you will love this CD. Released posthumusly, it contains recordings Smith made between '94 and '97 (while he was recording both Roman Candle and Either/Or which I now have and are also good). Some of my favorite tracks from New Moon are as follows (including links to YouTube versions):

Angel in the Snow
Go By
Georgia, Georgia
Big Decision (posted here a few days ago)
Almost Over

and many more! Anyway, give some tracks a listen and maybe buy the album. Because it is DAMN good. I'm even noodling around the idea of an entire post inspired by the lyric from "Riot Coming" (another fave) that goes, "I met a girl on the square, who showed me how to kill my cares. But once that's done, man, there's nothing to do." Still just a thought though; probably now that I've said it it'll never happen. :)


Living more alive. Where to begin on this one? It ends self-referentially. I can't even say this because I'm saying everything else. I am a river of words. I'm living more alive. I think you help bring this out of me. Alas I'll have to save it for another day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Archeology of Flash Drives

I am looking for a something very specific. It is a stencil of a camera, created by me several years ago. I cannot find it, but I am finding far more interesting things in the process. Some long buried, under layers of earth and more fossils. Tripping down memory lane, dirt under my fingernails. Come look at some of my broken pieces of pottery.

5/7/05 - random word document
The curb swoops sickeningly close to the window edge in my view. Water slips through the tire treads with a soft swishing. My roommate turns up the Nirvana issuing faintly from the radio and bobs her head in time to the beat. I want to say something patronizing about how passé Nirvana is, but I keep my lips pursed together and press my aching forehead to the cool window. The curb curls out of view again, and I close my eyes.

7/23/05 - random word document
I want to write poetry again, but I don’t know where to start. Recognizing as is necessary that all I wrote previously was crap, I am unsure of the next steps. The art of putting emotion into words is one of the most difficult to pursue. In my opinion, the greatest virtue of good poetry is that it finds a happy medium between superficial and inaccessible. I don’t want it spelled out for me, but I don’t want a bunch of undetectable abstract metaphor either. Should I read others until I find a style I want to emulate? Should I just go for it without studying, and edit/change subsequently? I’ll have to figure that out soon. Maybe it should be the latter. Because I haven’t had the urge to write poetry in a long time, and I don’t want to lose it while I waste time studying the classics.
this never happened...guess I failed to strike while the iron was hot...

8/26/04 - saved as "IMPORTANT QUOTE - PASSION"
"Passion. It lies in all of us - sleeping, waiting. And though unwanted, unbidden - it will stir, open its jaws, and howl. It speaks to us, guides us; passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments: the joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow - empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion we’d be truly dead." - Angelus , btvs S2

9/9/2003 - birthday rhyme from zeshan
my best friend's birthday's today, so i hope all
thas bad stays away today, evils' held at bay,
and i'm sad to say she's so far away, but i'm hopin
she's glad today, knowin thought of her face never
fades, helpin me clear up life when i can't see
black and white from the shades of grey, so though
this happy birthday's belated, i hope your day's
been elevated to a status of elated, you've been
graded a plus, cause your friendship i'd never trade
and i just wanted to say you bring sunshine to
september like it was may

1/29/03 - pirate joke
Me: What do you call it when a pirate buys US dollars cheaply on the London Exchange and sells them at a premium on the Tokyo Exchange?
You: I don't know.
Me: Arrr-bitrage!

no date, one of paul's away messages from AIM:
I never thought i'd see her again. she wandered up, drunk, obviously a little sick, and in desparate need of sensory stimuli. i screamed, loud like a child, right at her eyes, until she ran towards me, tripping or hopping over some debris on the asphalt, falling into my arms and knocking me to the ground. I skinned my heel as i fell, i lost my breath as she landed on me, and i dont remember ever getting it back. I woke up miserable, seeing first her crumbled posture, her crumbled face, held up on her bent wrists like a pale ugly moon, a perversion of her beauty into this dull mess. I could feel the black tar in her belly, the sinking depression, like she was super magnetized, being pulled straight down by the planets cruel latent field. I didnt laugh at her, but she acted like i had. I closed my eyes.

able to finally put a date on it. from a 2600 word email dated january 26, 2002:
"and then there's you....but i guess thats another talk for another time."

a creative endeavor, titled "the girls on the boys" where I combined two lyrics each from my favorite chick singers to tell a story:
China decorates our table; funny how the cracks don’t seem to show. Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup. I am writing graffiti on your body, I am drawing the story of how hard we try. I remember the days when I was so eager to satisfy you. “You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eyes off of you.” It’s funny how we feel so much but cannot say a word; we are screaming inside but can’t be heard. And it goes round in circles one night is perfect the next is brutal. The tide rushes by where we stand and the earth underneath turns to sand.

“Give me one reason to stay here, and I’ll turn right back around.”

“Everything is everything, what is meant to be will be.”

You say love is a hell you cannot bear, and I say gimme mine back and then go there for all I care.

First my left foot then my right behind the other, pantyhose running in the cold. I crossed the last line, from where I can return, when every step I took in faith betrayed me. I don’t think of you no more, except for every day or two; I don’t think of you no more, except for in between the sun and moon. When I said I’ll take you, I meant as is.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Musical Mondays: Ska-inspired

New feature alert!! I think Mondays will include a song from now on. It may be something old, it may be something new. Heck, it may even sometimes be something blue. :) Today's selection is inspired by the ska mix tape I described in great detail below. Here ya go, cats & jammers, it's "Madame Blavatsky" by Johnny Socko.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Time of Your Life

In high school I made mix tapes - obsessively. From the time I got my two-tape-deck-plus-CD-player boom box in tenth grade to the time I graduated high school, I probably made upwards of 50 mix tapes. Some I gave away, some were stolen, some I probably lost or left in friends' cars, but I still have quite a few of them in my possession. Below is just a small sampling:

PhotobucketSadly, I haven't had any way to play them for about 7 years. My stereo eventually died, and walkmen were thrown out in favor of discmen (and eventually the ipod). And no car I've owned since 2003 (RIP Rhino) has had a tape player. But I was never able to part with these tapes. I've moved them from my parents home, to college, back to my parents home, to my first apartment, to my second apartment and now to my first home. To me, the tapes are treasured artifacts of a specific, enjoyable time in my life. They all tell me something about me.

For some, it's as simple as an idea of the music I enjoyed at the time - see "Summer '99 Mix." For others, such as my "Mike Mix," it's a showcase of an emotional journey, in this case from my first serious relationship, lasting the entire year of 15. Still yet others represent my discovery of and first foray into genres previously unknown to me. My favorite example of this is the tape called, "History of Ska." Funnily enough, this tape was one that was made for me not by me. A fellow mixtape-o-phile, Ben, found out I didn't know anything about ska and wanted to make me a tape to serve as my introduction.

Let me just say a few words about Ben. I met Ben when I started working at Borders Books & Music my junior year in high school. I instantly developed a crush on him, and as most sixteen year old girls do, decided that this meant I was "in love" with him. My first introduction to Ben was the following exchange:

I am sitting in the staff break-room on my first day, with my manager Jack. I am being forced to watch the company video on sexual harassment. It is boring and I am aching for its end, or at least for an interesting distraction. Jack realizes this and actually apologizes for the fact that he must make me watch it. Ben walks into the break room. I think my jaw might have actually dropped. He had long hair, so dark it was almost black, and just greasy enough to give him a rocker edge, but not so greasy he looked like he'd never been introduced to a shower. He reminded me of Trent Reznor circa "Head Like a Hole." Today, he probably looks closer to Alan Rickman as Severus Snape (I'd imagine). A little soul patch, some baggy jeans and a t-shirt for Smashing Pumpkins completed the look that mesmerized sixteen year old Beth. He also had an unlit cigarette dangling precariously from his slightly parted lips.

Ben: JACK!
Jack: What's up?
Ben: Be my Prometheus!
(waits a beat or two for Jack to catch up)
Ben: ...and bring me fire!

Jack laughs, digs into his pocket for a lighter and tosses it to Ben. He then introduces me. I probably blush profusely. Later, when I'm at the register training with cashier Amy, I tell her how cool I think it is that we work with people who just randomly toss out references to Greek mythology. She doesn't get it, but I am no less pleased. Over the next few months, I continue to be enthralled by Ben's intelligence, sense of humor and non-conformist attitude. I am dying for him to ask me out, but I am afraid our three year age difference is a deterrent.

Back in the day, Borders used to sell CDs. I don't think they do anymore. They had these huge awful plastic cases around them, not just covering the CD, but with a little plastic outline protruding about 5 inches below the CD so they'd stand up in the deep magazine type shelves. Every time we sold a CD, we'd take the plastic case off and slip it over this five foot wooden stand designed to hold about a hundred of them. When it got full, someone would have to carry it back to the music section, empty it, and bring it back up front. I was cashiering and Ben had taken my CD rack to the back to empty. It was a slow day, and I noticed as he was returning to the front of the store, he was carrying the rack strangely. He had it resting across his broad shoulders and the back of his neck, and had tucked his arms around the edges so his hands rested underneath. He greeted me by saying, "So I was hanging out with Jesus the other day…" Just to make me laugh.

Despite these butterfly-inducing encounters that seemed to be friendly tinged with flirtation, Ben never asked me out. But he did make me a mix tape. And a lovingly crafted one at that. Taking 7 or 8 songs from each of the 'waves' of ska (original Jamaican, English tone, and third wave/protopunk) he traced the history of ska for me so I could see where the present day incarnation took its inspiration from. Not only did he take the time to type up the list of songs (something which, as evidenced above, I myself rarely bothered with preferring hand written for speed), but he even collected little copies of the bands logos and shrunk them to stick inside the case.

Photobucket     Photobucket

To this day, this tape serves as a pleasant reminder of what it felt like at sixteen to have a hopeless, unrequited crush, and a great friendship. And of course, also to discover a totally new type of music. One time, in college, I lent the tape to a boyfriend of mine - Eric. He still had it when we broke up and I hounded him for months to return it, because it just meant that much to me. Thankfully, he eventually did.

In any case, all these long-winded recollections are just a pre-amble to the real point. My brother took a trip up to New Jersey this week for Passover. Given that my little Versa is in much better shape than the 1998 Buick LeSabre he just inherited from my mother, I offered him my car for the long journey. While initially I was bitter at the idea of having to drive around the 219,000-mile-deep bucket of bolts, there was a silver lining. It had a tape deck. ELATED to finally have an excuse to bust out my old mix tapes, I have been having a ball dipping into the deep wells of memory these tapes encompass. It's too bad that mixes seem to be overlooked these days as relics of a bygone era, now that we can access our entire music collection at the touch of a button. Perhaps I'll make one tonight, just for nostalgia's sake. :)


Friday, April 15, 2011


This afternoon I have been doing time in the seat. On Friday it is commonplace to have a diminished load of tasks versus other weekdays. Given this trend, I usually delay completing said work until nearly day's end so that I may rush through those last few agonizing, pre-weekend hours in a flurry of activity and efficiency. This staving off of work tends to lead to lots of time for daydreaming, internet-surfing, phone checking, etc.

Today I have been fixated on a memory. Just over five years ago, I contemplated giving a gift. I had just started my relationship with Keith, maybe six months before. He was such a refuge for me in a time of upheaval; I was missing my friends from school, finding it difficult to live under my parents' roof and rules, and trying to navigate the universally tumultuous mid-20s. I was lonely and he was my light. We had lots of interests in common, an easy-going dialogue, a strong attraction, and several other key ingredients for the recipe of love. I loved him. I guess maybe it's not important to get into the details of our relationship, or maybe it is.

In any case, I had strong feelings of love and I was thinking of giving him this present. I wanted to express something to him about the way that I felt and I thought I could do it through a gift. He was one of those guys who was pretty fashionable, although certainly not in terms of what's fashionable now. He wasn't metro, or hipster, or preppy, but he had an aesthetic all his own and it was pretty cute. So one of the things that I thought he would actually make use of were he given it was a ring. A manly ring. A plain titanium type band, maybe with a little black ring through the middle or something. You know the type I mean, right? Like you'd see a guitar playing front-man wear unironically. I knew it would look good on him and, because it matched his aesthetic, he would actually wear it.

But the ring alone wasn't enough. I wanted to engrave something on it, something that indicated it was from me, and that communicated to him the things I was feeling. A message.

I thought - what do I put in it? We were already saying, "I love you," at that point in the relationship. I could say that, but it's so trite and hallmarky. Besides that it was conventional, and you know I like to do things unconventionally. I also thought about "I love thee" like the ring in Romeo & Juliet, but I had no reason to believe he'd ever seen that movie, and that felt a little too copycat for me. I wanted something that encapsulated how I felt about love. After I thought about it for quite awhile, the thing that came to mind was an expression that I have always liked. Through my learning about the eastern religions, as well as my exposure to yoga over the years - both with my mother being a trained instructor and my own experience in various classes through the years - the word namaste came to mind.

Namaste means different things depending on who you ask. There is obviously a literal translation, and then there are different connotations depending on the situation in which it is used. But the meaning I have always found the most profound and inspirational is, "The spirit in me bows to the spirit in you," or "the spirit in me respects the spirit in you." To me that is one of the ideals of loving somebody, seeing the spirit that's inside them and not even finding it just appealing to you but almost finding it superior to you. You have found someone with whom you not only have solidarity, but you can learn from and grow with and be inspired by on a daily basis.

While I initially thought that might make a good gift, I ended up sitting on my hands for a long time. The more I thought about it, the more I started to doubt it. I don't think I even doubted it consciously so much, but it started to feel very heavy to me. It placed a lot of expectation. It was a big feeling to have and I wasn't positive, so I didn't do it. And I never ended up doing it - over three years of dating Keith. Even though at one point I had felt sure that it was what I wanted to do. I've been thinking about it a lot today. It's sad. Particularly the idea that maybe some part of me always knew from the beginning of that relationship that it wasn't 'the one'. That there were conflicts in our spirit, our humanity - the way that we approached the world. And I knew it consciously eventually, but I think I may have known it subconsciously long before. I realized that today, when I was thinking about the ring and how much I had longed to give it to him, and why I didn't.

When I think about it now, I think I still really long for that feeling. That connecting of spirit. And I'm starting to see its influence more. Not even just in any romantic relationships that I aspire to have, or have, or have had - but in all my relationships with people. I think one of the reasons I'm so honest and forthright, even when I first meet people, is because of the belief that being completely open and being myself in my most raw form is the way I'm most likely to find a response either positive or negative from other people, and hopefully eventually solidarity. I don't believe that if I show people something that's not true it will get me what I want in the end. Although, despite feeling that way, honesty is certainly a quality that's gotten me into trouble at different points in my life.

I can remember one instance in particular from the summer I was working on Capitol Hill, for Pelosi. It was a highly charged, highly politicized environment. Not just for the obvious reason of working in politics, but also amongst the army (25!) of interns that Pelosi employed. All of them were bright, ambitious young kids filled with energy who were trying to learn, have experiences, and contribute. And above all to be recognized for those contributions. There was a lot of 'feeling each other out' and trying to elevate our position through comparison. Yet there was also a great deal of commeraderie because we were all going through something together. And many of us were there for the same reason.

I was at a party. One of the Pelosi interns was staying with a family friend, rather than in student housing like most of the rest of us. His 'host family' had gone away for the weekend, leaving their palatial Georgetown mansion empty. We were all underage and couldn't ever BUY liquor, but a rich person's house offered a bounty of speakeasyesque options. The Pelosi interns raided the liquor cabinet, piled into the finished basement, and got drunk. At one point, we were playing a game I detest to this day for its ability to make everyone playing it feel completely immature and insecure - "Never Have I Ever." The oneupsmanship inherent to that game is an anathema to me. But I was playing nonetheless, and with my usual level of openness.

At one point, someone had offered the statement - "Never have I ever kissed someone of my own gender." Well those who know the story (not to be repeated here because it involves other people who might not want it exposed on the internet, at least one of whom probably still reads this blog) know that this meant I had to take a drink. Shockingly (given there were about 12 of us playing) I was the only one, and was then asked to tell the story. To me, it has always been a funny memory and a piece of evidence of the verve of youth, spent without fear of experiences (so long as the experiences didn't endanger me or anyone else). So I told the story expecting other people to see it as I saw it, and to share in a laugh with me. Instead, I received only judgment in reply. Nobody laughed, nobody even cracked a smile. I looked into their eyes and I thought, with horror, "These people are judging me." One person even said, "I can't believe that." I suddenly felt ashamed, and then angry (at myself for caring, and at them for making me feel that way). It made me feel doubt at parts of who I was that I should have been certain of. I was amazed that something that had been such a positive memory for me could be turned so quickly into something negative.

For weeks after the party, some of the kids who were there acted differently toward me. They excluded me from going out occasionally, or they whispered about me when they thought I wasn't paying attention. This one boy, who I had a huge crush on and who had been flirty with me before the party, stopped speaking to me beyond the socially required "Good morning" and "Goodbye" at the day's bookends. [[Funnily enough, I ran into him seven or eight months later at the Princeton debate tournament. He was a student there and I saw him on the quad between rounds. AWKWARD!]] Anyway, after this incident I started to feel seriously bad, and to doubt myself. I thought, "Maybe I should stop sharing things like this with people." But then I thought, "All that I am is the composite of experiences I have had throughout my life. They have shaped me into who I am today." What someone may see as youthful indiscretion I see as a useful piece of experimentation bringing me one step closer to knowing myself, and a funny memory to share with friends on top of that.

The idea of showing all yourself to people, both good and bad, is hard. You have to not care what people will think. I find it so frustrating, because I think the only way I get to namaste is by showing myself completely and truly. And looking deep into that reflecting pool for a spirit that I can bow to.

It Probably Wasn't That

But she can wait.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Scenes From My Lunch Hour 4/13

Found a new section of the greenway yesterday that I did not even know existed. Only five minutes from my office!! Here are some shots from my lunchtime walk.

Starting out:
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Fallen trunk:
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Winding paths:
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Beautiful sunshine beautiful trees:
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mantra for a New Season

Risk-taking is a continuum that ranges from smart idea to terrible idea, with many f-stops in between. However, there are two conditions that help greatly in pushing it towards brilliance. First, is knowing all the possible outcomes and understanding what's at stake both for good and ill. Secondly, is knowing what emotions are likely to be byproducts of said outcomes and processing them to their logical conclusions. Given full understanding of both of these factors allows for a comfortable weighing - an answer to the question - can you handle any of these outcomes? Or really, all of them? Because you don't know which one you're going to get, so the answer can't be "I can handle all but this one, but there's no way that's what's going to happen" - because you just DON'T KNOW. Trying to keep this in mind at present. Risk taking is an emerging theme at the moment.

Unrelatedly, I've upped my geek factor by a new exponent as of this evening. I just concluded a 12 week bowling league I was in with some friends from work. At the end of the league all the participants got a 'parting gift.' Sidenote: I am joining another league in May (woot!) because of how much fun I had with the first league. Sidenote 2: This will be important! Because the 'parting gift' was our very own ball!!! In our desired weight and drilled to our specifications! AWESOMESAUCE! Here are two (extremely dorky) pics of me with my new ball!



final sidenote: I am HELLA tired right now, so I'm sorry if any of this is incoherent. respect!

just kidding, this is really the last thought - this is my 18th post in 2011. this means that by april of 2011, I have already written one more post than I did ALL OF LAST YEAR. goodness, I'm not sure why the sudden outpouring, but I am happy about it.

ok, that's all folks!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Little Rorschach Test

I felt the need to do something creative today, so I decided to paint. As is often the problem, however, I didn't have anything in mind that I particularly wanted to paint. So I returned to an old trick I learned when I was making a lot of ATCs back in '07. (Btw, an ATC is an "Artist Trading Card" - a 2.5" by 3.5" card that can be made from or with any material. The only restrictions are the size and the stipulation that cards can never be sold - only traded or given to other artists or people.) This particular technique involves painting a whole sheet of watercolor paper - abstractly. Then, once the sheet has dried, cutting ATC size chunks out of it and trying to see what you can see in them. I like to think of it as a mini Rorschach test. It's a very freeing technique, because your painting doesn't have to go in any particular direction, and it truly leaves the 'art' up to interpretation after the fact. Anyway, thought I'd share a few of the cards I came up with. Not every card yields a usable result, but tonight I think I got a solid three out of it. Here they are:

Woman Sunbathing:

House on Fire:

We Can Only Meet In Other Worlds:

Also, for fun, here's what the sheet looks like as I cut the ATC sized pieces out:

Anyway, it was a fun way to spend an hour or two today. Also did a bit of gardening, some cooking, some laundry - mundane life stuff. It was just the kind of slow, contemplative weekend I needed.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I Know I'm Not Through With it Yet

I am irritated, though mostly at myself.  And I ought not be. I managed to have a nearly perfect Saturday today.

Leisurely and delicious breakfast; finally getting a chance to peek at the rabbit who so often comes out to eat clovers after I've left for work.

Hot, relaxing shower. Hair came out great, picked out a cute outfit.

Off to the 'Friends of the Durham County Library' book sale. A used book sale - one of my favorite things. Overhearing a few funny remarks, like 'ribs' replacing 'cheese' in the expression "Want some cheese with that whine?" How Southern. A pithy but enjoyable convo with a fellow sci-fi nerd about what really belongs in said section. Leaving the friends with a GIANT stack of awesome books that only cost $27:


Afterward, a quick walk around the downtown loop. Stopping at my favorite local lunch joint - Toast. Hip, but not so hip I feel out of place. Common man hip. Full of bright colors and bright conversations.


Fresh, local and seasonal ingredients turned into mouth-watering paninis. I choose the 'local farm egg, tallegio and chives' with a side salad of mixed spring greens and shaved parmesan. It is amazingly simple, yet as warm and fulfilling as it looks:


Coming home, reuniting with the bro. Watching the first few innings of the Saturday Fox baseball game (free on basic digital antenna airwaves - we don't have cable at our house). Yankees/Red Sox - a treat to secretly root against both of them. Half watching the game. Using my favorite pen to record inside each of my new books the date and location where they were acquired. Delighted to find that a few previous owners had done the same, now joining and sharing our history by adding a name. Hoping the next owner will appreciate it as much as we do.

Cracking one of the new books for a few hours. "Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart," by Joyce Carol Oates. Trying to give her another chance, as she's a favorite author of both my sister and my oldest brother. Enjoying the change of style from my most recent read. Raining but not threateningly. Just lightly enough to create a pleasant din to accentuate the softness of an afternoon spent in a book.


Indian take out for dinner while watching "That 70s Show" on Netflix with the bro. How to spend the rest of an otherwise perfect day? Ruining it, briefly, but trying now to recover it. Write. Get it out. I'll leave you with some Elliott Smith.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Dreamer Can Know No Truth

I had a dream last night that I invited you back into my bed.

You became a snake, coiled menacing and hissing at my feet.

I tried to slip out of bed unnoticed - slowly sliding my limbs from under soft sheets. You followed me with your eyes, your head slightly bobbing as you curled your body tighter against itself.

I began to back towards the door, panicked by your unbroken stare. Suddenly I had a sword in my hand. You slithered off the bed, hardly making a sound as your taught scaly lengths kissed the surface of the floor. You raised your head, showed your fangs and headed my way.

Not thinking, acting only with survival instinct, I swung the sword down and across the front of my body, feeling no doubt that it would result in the swift removal of your head.

But alas, my blade was dull and useless. You were only momentarily shocked by the blow but you quickly recovered, launching yourself, springlike, at my face. I raised my hands to protect myself and you bit them over and over again.

I collapsed, exhausted from the adrenaline draining in the face of venom invading. You turned back into yourself. "Help me," I pleaded meekly. You turned your back and walked out.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Awareness is Not Enough

"My calendar lies crumbled laid to waste.
It's been scrawled on, thumbed through and changed.
Will this be the measure of my days?
Dinners and appointments and deadlines I can't make.
And when I start to see I start to see it making sense for me.
That's just hope springing eternally."

- Indigo Girls

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

(Story?) Continues On

I don't know if I'm doing this the right way. I feel like yesterday's entry came out a little too 'high-drama' even though I did not intend it that way. I literally just sat down and wrote about the things I was remembering. I hardly edited at all, really only to correct misspellings or insert a forgotten word in a sentence. I want to tell the story, and I want to remember and confront the memories but I'm not certain when to pause and reflect. Do I examine each memory in turn? Ruminate on how it made me feel, why those feelings were warranted or perhaps silly? Or do I look at the tapestry of memories from a course of time and address them together? I've never been to see a therapist, someone trained in getting us to examine our emotions and behaviors. Nor do I think I've done a particularly good job of it on my own (obviously). But short of googling something like "learn to love yourself" or "improving your self-image" (which feels completely ridiculous) I'm not sure what's the right course of action. Anyway, this meta question has dominated my thinking more than the memories themselves, today, so that's what you get. I'll marinate and get back to you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

No Turning Back Now

I realized today that I didn't really start at the beginning. Just finding the first journal entry that refers to my physical appearance is not enough. I need to think back farther than that.

I think the first time I really started to become conscious of my appearance was the summer before sixth grade. Even though before then I had played dress up, put on my sister's makeup, and compared various anatomical features with friends, I think it was mostly surreal, mostly play - and most of all private. Even though you might have noticed things about yourself, nobody else was really noticing them. There was no connection between the lipstick you wore or didn’t, or the trendy clothes you bought or didn't, and how many girlfriends you had or what boys would talk to you. Or what people expected of you. But the summer before 6th grade it all started to take on more meaning.

To explain it best, I have to take it back a moment. In second grade, my mother took me to the salon to get a haircut. She had convinced me (it probably didn't take much - I liked change) to give a chance to what she called the "Dorothy Hamill" cut. I knew nothing of the cut's eponymous inspiration, but remembered loving the extreme lightness I felt when I walked out of the salon that day. The way my hair bounced and how I couldn't see it anymore when I hung upside down in trees. It looked like this:


And after it got a little longer like this:


It was a hit with the family, especially my older relatives (grandparents, etc). I don't have any recollection of anyone at school even noticing though. Of course, time marches on and parents get busy and my hair was growing all the while. It was probably halfway down my back by the time 5th grade came along. Graduation came and I started to wonder about middle school - what it would be like, if I'd make more friends when the eight local elementary schools merged into one. I had always had plenty of friends in elementary school. I wouldn't have called myself popular but I was pretty middle of the road, and I had an annual birthday pool party that everyone came to.

I don't remember anymore if it was my mother's idea or my sister's, but they were in agreement (as women so often are) that a new haircut could be a transformative and exciting foot to kick middle school off on. A rehash of the popular Dorothy Hamill was suggested, and I agreed. Back to the salon. Rita, my hairdresser, was by then only a slightly crusty 60 years old. It seems in the intervening years, however, she had forgotten a few things because instead of the Dorothy, I got this:


Which in case you can't tell, is a bowl cut. A style of haircut very popular for boys around 1994. Skater boys. As if this wasn't bad enough, the intervention of puberty a few months later changed many things, including the texture of my hair, and left me with this:


And this (btw, funnily enough this is the chiquita dress):


To this day, I could not tell you who the first person in Central Middle School to call me "Fro" was. I can speculate, but that's all it would be. What I do know is that said nickname because synonymous with Beth for just over two years. I could probably count the number of times someone called me "Beth" on my fingers and toes. It was like I didn't even have a name. I was just Fro. Everyone from the cheerleaders and jocks, to the nerdy asians, to the juvenile delinquents - even the girl who weighed over two hundred pounds at age 11 who I shall save from naming here - called me Fro, or at the very least laughed when someone else did. I have blocked out a lot of memories from this time period in my life, but here are some things I do remember:

- The first two weeks of school. Suddenly kids I've known my whole life stop speaking to me. The nickname emerges. I start crying a lot. Only a handful of kids, including my down-the-street neighbor, come to my 11th birthday party. Big pool party, adieu.

- The early December day of our winter band concert. On the program was a medley of songs from "Fiddler on the Roof." Little did I know as I sat up front playing my oboe that the percussion section had made up a whole new set of words to "If I Were A Rich Man" that started "If I Had an Afro, my name would be Beth Mandel…" which they proceeded to sing in front of the entire school assembly.

- Not too long after that, the day my four best girl friends - Annie, Wendy, Peggy and Alisson - had a meeting with me in the guidance counselor's office and told her that they couldn't be my friend any more because I was not cool enough and that I was "too hyper" (perhaps bottling all my frustration at being teased into being hyper).

- How thankful I was about a week later when Alisson reneged.

- The day I tried to stand up for little John Henckey (Hankey? Heneky?) who had the unfortunate position of being at least a head shorter than all the other boys in sixth grade. Upon seeing him be bullied, I pushed the perpetrator Khaled Turan (about a head TALLER than all the other boys and twice as wide) and told him to leave John alone. John, with a 'deer-in-headlights' look, realized that being defended by the most unpopular girl in school would only make his reputation worse and yelled "I don't need your help!" This only caused everyone around us to dissolve into a chorus of "ooooohs" and to start chanting "Fro loves John!" So much for those on the bottom of the heap sticking together.

- Nearly weekly, my book bag gets unzipped as I walk down the hallway so that all its contents, splayed across the hallway, can be kicked and stomped by my fellow students. I come home from school and cry and hug my dog, and thank him for being my best friend.

- Flash forward to spring of 6th grade. My social studies teacher, Mr. Walek, overhears some of the kids calling me Fro at the start of class. Trying to be helpful, he insists that my hair looks nothing like a Fro and pulls his dictionary out to read the definition of 'afro'. This only makes them laugh harder. Mr. Walek has trouble holding anyone's attention for the rest of the period. I feel like dying, and consider the idea that it might be better actually die than to feel this way.

- Seventh grade. A couple of band-geeks (my friends to this day) start sitting with me at lunch. I am astonished. Shortly thereafter, the masses start to call Steven Felber "Fel-Fro" for being nice to me and sticking up for me. Feeling like my curse had spread to other people, I was torn between feeling happy to have another friend or two and feeling guilty for causing someone else the pain I was feeling.

These are just a handful of memories. I'm sure there a few more that are escaping me at this moment, and countless more that have been repressed deep into the subconscious from where they may never be recovered.

Over these middle school years, the combination of puberty and discovering food as a refuge for emotional distress caused me to put on weight for the first time in my life. I'd always been a fairly average sized kid. My sixth grade physical fitness report (of which I still have a copy, god knows why) puts me at a normal 11 year old size of 92 pounds. By eighth grade this number had ballooned more than the six inches gained in height should have allowed. I felt disgusted with myself, and had already begun comparing myself to other girls, obsessively. The following anecdote about weight sticks in my mind clear as the day it happened. I think it was largely responsible for my first tango with crash-dieting.

It is November of eighth grade, about a month before my bat mitzvah. We are in gym class. It is physical fitness day. We are condemned to do timed sit-ups, pull-ups and jumping jacks in pairs, and then afterwards hop onto a scale and under a ruler to be defined by our size in both directions. Our teacher is late. We have all changed into our gym clothes and are sitting in groups of twos and threes along the gym wall - waiting. People are chatting, laughing. A few people stand. I walk back and forth along the line of groups hoping someone might invite me into conversation. The object of one of my numerous adolescent crushes, Mike G, sits with his girlfriend Megan, his arm wrapped around her tiny waist as I look on wistfully from afar. Bravely, I walk over, determined to talk to them. Before I can say anything, she wrinkles her nose and mentions to Mike how much she hates physical fitness day, hates getting weighed because she is "SO FAT." In girl code, she is begging any bystander (though probably hoping for Mike) to disagree with her, so I quickly take up the charge. "Are you kidding? You are SO skinny! I'm sure you'll be the skinniest girl out of all of us!" Feeling scripted, my next statement serves to pre-empt what I imagine they are thinking: "I know it's not going to be me!" In reality, probably they weren't even thinking about me. At that age, most kids are really only concerned with themselves. But my statement serves the opposite purpose and instead focuses the attention my way. Mike, with all the tact of a 13 year old boy says, "Why, how much do you weigh?"

I know the number to be 154 pounds, having developed the habit of weighing myself every day leading up to my bat mitzvah, praying my dress will still fit when the day arrives. But I am horrified by this fact. The number itself means nothing to me. But because of how I see myself versus all the other girls, it feels like it MUST be a huge number, must be completely WRONG for me to weigh. So I decide to lie. I quickly decide that I think I can get away with taking about 15 pounds off that number and still be believed. So I tell Mike and Megan, "130", hoping they can't somehow smell the lie. To say the reaction is not what I expected is an understatement. They quickly turn to each other, eyes wide, and start laughing immediately. Guffawing, really. Through uncontrollable laughter Mike asks, "Are you serious????" "Yeah," I say, tentatively, not sure if they are laughing because they can tell I'm lying. "Holy crap!" he says, laughing so hard he's nearly crying. It quickly becomes clear to me they are laughing not because they think I'm lying, but because even my unreal, IMAGINED, lie of a weight is far more poundage than is acceptable for me to admit to weighing at 13. My face suddenly feels uncontrollably hot. I get dizzy, not sure if I will vomit or pass out. I wheel around, unable to face such cruelty head-on for any longer, and see that the gym teacher has arrived. Commanding everyone to quiet down, his arrival allows me a second to cry silently while my peers are distracted and I am facing away from them. He, of course, does not notice me either.

A few weeks after this, in reading and writing class, we are introduced to the idea that we will each be writing 20 page research papers in the second half of the year. A sheet of paper with about 50 suggested topics is passed out. My eyes scan the page and one of the earliest suggestions stands out brightly – ANOREXIA/BULIMIA - I am half disgusted and half intrigued. I know immediately that this is what I will choose.

I Slept on it All Night...

...and am actually incredibly excited for this new venture.  I could hardly sleep b/c I couldn't stop thinking about it.  I want to tell this story.  To have a public catharsis, a public examination of all that things that go into the psyche and image-formation of an adolescent and teenage girl, and how those impacts carry through into adulthood.  I am hopeful I'll learn something of myself in the process. I hope too that maybe someone else out there will learn something about themselves.  That maybe in my example some young girl will know to let some hurtful comment slide, or some young woman will let her own hangups go.  But most of all, I hope that at the end I can put it away, heal the scars of childhood, rather than just covering them up.

Watch this space.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Examination Has Begun: I Think it Started Early

From my journal, reprinted word for word (including spelling errors!)  February 3, 1995.  I was eleven:

"Today, I had one of the worst days in my life.  I wore this really comfy, colorful jumper that I liked a lot.  Sounds fine? Right? Wrong!  The only problem was that the jumper had lots of colors and different fruits on it.  I wore it with a yellow t-shirt.  All day long people were calling me chiquita banana and faggy fruit-cart lady.  It was pretty embarassing."

About two weeks after that, I described an episode in which two boys I had crushes on prank called me together, made fun of my 'fro' and asked me to go out with them only to laugh in my face when I got my hopes up they might be serious.

Gee willikers, I can't imagine where my negative self-image could have come from.

I start this public examination in the hopes that by confronting these painful memories and feelings I might begin to move past them - to let them go.  Obviously, I'm not still that sixth grader who thinks she's the ugliest duckling, but neither am I a completely healthy, secure 27 year old with no image issues whatsoever.

Certainly looking at the above excerpts and memories, it seems silly to think that the cruelty of middle-schoolers should have any bearing on my self-esteem now.  But I think things like this are cumulative.  And those years were extraordinarily formative in terms of developing (or failing to develop) confidence.

More ruminating and memories coming soon.  For now, sleep.

Frustrating... once you find someplace comfortable how hard it is to be anywhere else. Especially someplace as mundane as work. :(